CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an actor.
Is becoming an actor right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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If you're interested in pursuing a career as an actor, there are several high school courses that can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Here are some examples of courses that may be beneficial:
- Drama: Drama courses provide a foundation in acting techniques, improvisation, and character development. These courses often involve performing in school productions, which can help you gain valuable experience and confidence.
- Speech and Debate: Speech and debate courses can help you improve your public speaking and communication skills, which are essential for actors. These courses can also help you develop your critical thinking and argumentation skills, which can be useful in script analysis and character development.
- Film Studies: Film studies courses can help you understand the history and techniques of filmmaking, which is an important part of acting for the camera. These courses can also help you develop your critical thinking and analysis skills, which are important for understanding and interpreting scripts.
- English and Literature: English and literature courses can help you develop your reading and writing skills, which are important for analyzing scripts and developing characters. These courses can also expose you to a variety of genres and styles of writing, which can broaden your understanding of storytelling.
- Music and Dance: Music and dance courses can help you develop your rhythm, timing, and physical coordination, which are important skills for actors. These courses can also help you gain a better understanding of musical theater and choreography, which can be useful if you're interested in performing in musical productions.
In addition to these courses, you may also want to consider taking classes or workshops outside of school to further develop your skills and gain experience. Acting classes, voice lessons, and dance classes can all be beneficial in preparing for a career in acting.
Formal Education Steps
While it is not strictly necessary to have a formal education to become an actor, pursuing a degree in theater or a related field can provide valuable training and opportunities for aspiring actors. Here are some details on formal education options for actors:
- Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts: Many colleges and universities offer a Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts, which can provide a comprehensive education in acting, directing, design, and theater history. These programs typically require students to take a range of courses in areas such as acting technique, voice and movement, and stagecraft, and often include opportunities to perform in student productions.
- Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting: A BFA in Acting is a more specialized degree program that focuses specifically on developing the skills and techniques needed for a career in acting. These programs often require students to audition for admission, and include intensive training in areas such as voice and speech, physical acting, and script analysis.
- Master's Degree in Acting: A Master's Degree in Acting is a graduate-level program that provides advanced training in acting techniques and theory. These programs are typically highly competitive, and may require students to have a bachelor's degree in theater or a related field, as well as significant experience in acting.
- Acting Conservatories: Acting conservatories are intensive, often two or three-year programs that provide intensive training in acting techniques, voice and speech, movement, and other areas. These programs are typically highly selective and require a rigorous audition process for admission.
In addition to these degree programs, actors may also choose to pursue other types of formal education, such as workshops, classes, and training programs offered by acting schools or industry organizations. These programs can provide targeted training in areas such as on-camera acting, auditioning, and improvisation, and can be a valuable way to develop skills and gain experience.
While a formal education can be a valuable asset for actors, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee of success in the industry. Success as an actor requires a combination of talent, hard work, dedication, and perseverance, and many successful actors have achieved their success through a combination of formal education and real-world experience.
Auditioning is a crucial part of the acting process, as it is often the first opportunity for an actor to showcase their skills and potentially land a role. Here are some tips and considerations for actors when auditioning:
- Research the project and character: Before auditioning for a role, it's important to do your research on the project and the character you'll be auditioning for. Read the script or sides thoroughly, and try to get a sense of the tone, style, and overall story of the project. If the project is based on a book or play, read the source material as well. This can help you make informed choices about your audition.
- Prepare your material: Once you have a sense of the project and character, it's time to prepare your audition material. This may include monologues, scenes, or sides provided by the casting director. Practice your material extensively, and be prepared to perform it in a variety of ways.
- Dress appropriately: When auditioning, it's important to dress appropriately for the role and the project. Dress in a way that suggests the character you're auditioning for, but avoid costumes or props that may be distracting.
- Be on time and professional: Arrive at your audition early, and be prepared to wait. When it's your turn to audition, be polite, professional, and focused. Listen carefully to any instructions given by the casting director or audition monitor.
- Make strong choices: When auditioning, it's important to make strong, specific choices about your performance. Use your research and preparation to inform your choices, and be willing to take risks and try different approaches.
- Take direction: After performing your material, the casting director may give you feedback or ask you to try the scene or monologue in a different way. Be open to direction, and willing to make adjustments to your performance.
- Follow up appropriately: After your audition, follow up appropriately with the casting director or your agent. Thank them for the opportunity to audition, and express your continued interest in the project. Avoid being pushy or demanding, but don't be afraid to follow up if you haven't heard back in a reasonable amount of time.
Remember, auditioning is a process, and even the most talented actors may not book every role they audition for. Focus on doing your best, and try to learn from each audition experience, whether or not you land the role.
Having an agent is often seen as essential for actors who want to build a successful career in the entertainment industry. Here are a few reasons why having an agent can be important:
- Access to opportunities: Agents have connections and relationships with casting directors, producers, and other industry professionals, which can give actors access to more audition opportunities than they might be able to find on their own. An agent can help an actor get in the room for auditions and increase their chances of being seen by the right people.
- Negotiating contracts and deals: When an actor is offered a role or a project, an agent can help negotiate the terms of the contract or deal. This can include negotiating salary, billing, and other details that can impact an actor's career and income.
- Professional advice and guidance: An agent can provide an actor with professional advice and guidance on a range of topics, from audition strategies to career planning. An agent can help an actor make informed decisions about their career and provide feedback on their work.
- Industry knowledge and expertise: Agents have a deep understanding of the entertainment industry and can provide valuable insights into trends, opportunities, and challenges. An agent can help an actor navigate the industry and make informed decisions about their career path.
While having an agent can be beneficial, it's important to remember that an agent is not a guarantee of success. Ultimately, an actor's success will depend on their talent, dedication, and hard work, and an agent can be one part of a larger support network. It's also worth noting that while having an agent can be helpful, there are successful actors who have achieved their success without an agent.
Workshops and Training Opportunities
Here are just a few examples of the many places where actors can find training and workshops to help them develop their skills and advance their careers:
- The Actors Studio - offers a range of workshops and classes, including the Lee Strasberg Method and Meisner Technique.
- Stella Adler Studio of Acting - offers a range of programs and workshops, including the Adler Technique and Shakespeare Intensive.
- Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre - offers improv classes and workshops for actors looking to develop their comedy skills.
- The Second City - offers improv and sketch comedy training, as well as writing workshops.
- The Groundlings - offers improv and sketch comedy training, as well as a writing lab for aspiring comedy writers.
- American Conservatory Theater (ACT) - offers a range of training programs, including a comprehensive MFA program and a summer training congress for actors.
- Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) - offers a range of training programs, including a full-time BA program and short courses in acting, Shakespeare, and voice and speech.
- The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute - offers a range of programs and workshops, including the Method and the Young Actors program.
There are a lot of great online resources for actors! Here are a few that you might find useful:
- Backstage: Backstage is one of the most comprehensive online resources for actors, featuring casting calls, job listings, industry news, and advice from industry professionals. They offer a paid subscription service that provides access to more job listings and resources, but there is also a lot of free content available on their website.
- Actor's Access: Actor's Access is a website that allows actors to submit themselves for roles in film, television, and theater productions. They also offer a variety of tools and resources for actors, including a database of casting directors and agents, audition tips, and industry news.
- The Actors' Equity Association: The Actors' Equity Association is a labor union representing actors and stage managers in the theater industry. Their website offers resources for actors, including information on contracts, benefits, and professional development opportunities.
- SAG-AFTRA: SAG-AFTRA is a labor union representing actors, broadcasters, and other media professionals in the film, television, and radio industries. Their website offers a variety of resources for actors, including information on contracts, benefits, and industry news.
- Playbill: Playbill is a website that covers the latest news and events in the theater industry. They offer a variety of resources for actors, including audition listings, job postings, and advice from industry professionals.
- YouTube: There are many actors and acting coaches who offer advice and training on YouTube. Some popular channels include Acting Coach Scotland, The Acting Center, and The Working Actor's Journey.
- Instagram: Instagram is a great platform for actors to connect with industry professionals, showcase their work, and find inspiration. Many casting directors and agents have Instagram accounts, so it's a good idea for actors to follow them and engage with their content.